J.J. Abrams is back behind the director's chair to close out this trilogy after having launched it with The Force Awakens. He has clearly been listening to fans who did not appreciate Rian Johnson's bold decisions on the direction of the series with The Last Jedi. The Rise of Skywalker is everything fans have said they want Star Wars to be, and that is kind of the problem with it.
All the plot you are going to get here is what the opening crawl gives us. I do not want to spoil anything. Rey has been off training to be the best Jedi she can be. Poe and Finn have been sent by General Leia to find allies for the resistance. When it becomes clear that an old nemesis has risen from the ashes, the Resistance must band together to save the galaxy.
The good thing off the bat is that Poe and Finn have way more going on here than in previous films. John Boyega and Oscar Isaac get to let their charm and charisma shine as they get real hero moments. Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver continue to captivate as linked adversaries who drive each other forward. Carrie Fisher is given her final performance as Leia, something many fans will cherish. A few new faces are introduced and a few old ones are brought back. Sadly they don't get much to do. This is especially true of Keri Rusell's Zorii Bliss, a fascinating character who comes and goes only as the plot allows.
Fan service can be a dangerous thing. Abrams seems so hell-bent on making a film no one will hate that he fails to make a distinct one. The Rise of Skywalker often feels calculated to appease everyone to the point of robbing the film of anything unique. For fans, this won't be a problem. There is so much fan service that they will be happy enough. The film is destined for middle-ranking in any fan's list of favorite Star Wars film.
The Last Jedi may have been divisive but at least it felt like it had a vision. That film aimed to pull the saga into new territory, to tear down the structure that keeps it both familiar and predictable. The Rise of Skywalker wipes away much of that new direction in favor of returning to something that fans will be more comfortable with. The result is a something familiar, maybe too familiar.
There are some stunning sequences thanks to Abrams' deft action directing. He knows how to create a thrilling action set piece. He also knows how to keep things moving. The film flies by at a quick pace even when the first hour is burdened with an immense amount of exposition.
In the end, this is the film I think fans wanted. It is just a bland one with little personality or memorable moments. In making something that will offend few fans, the filmmakers have made as cookie-cutter a Star Wars film as we are likely to see. In that way, it feels an extension of The Force Awakens and a fitting close to a series that may need to take a break for a while.